Archive for November, 2010

Supposedly, newspapers, magazines and books are in their death throes. Advertising is shifting to other media, increasingly online. Want-ads are all going to Craig’s List. More and more people are reading e-readers, iPads and laptops rather than paper media. Those people, that is, who still bother to read, as opposed to tracking Facebook and Twitter and surfing the Web. A growing portion of the populace doesn’t trust the mainstream media that produces newspapers and magazines. Many people have neither the time nor the desire to read long-form publications of any kind.

This is all true.

And yet, to reference Mark Twain, reports of the death of mainstream content creators have been greatly exaggerated. To be sure, the businesses of for-pay, “long-form” content, such as newspapers, magazines and books will morph and almost undoubtedly shrink. However, they will coexist in a temporarily messy but ultimately vibrant media marketplace with content from “free” and generally amateur sources, including social networks, Blogs, YouTube, and other services we can’t even yet imagine. The “personal media mix” of most people will blend information and functionality from these sources, and large, traditional content creators will be among the most important.

Here are some reasons why.

First, consider the complementary strengths and weaknesses of two broad categories of media content creation and functionality. I’m tempted to call them “professional” and “amateur” content creators and editors, but these terms seem inadequate, since the distinction in some cases is minor. Think of skilled Bloggers, who earn money, and many of whom were or are professional journalists and function that way. So let’s conceive the two classes of media content creation differently.

I’m going to borrow terminology from the technologist Nick Bilton, author of the book, “I Live in the Future and Here’s What It Looks Like,” and a researcher at and advisor to the New York Times. He advocates the transforming power of social networks. He envisions that highly personalized and refined ones will serve as an individual’s, “anchor communities,” and provide all of the gatekeeping and content-creation services anybody might want. I consider these anchor communities one of the two broad sources of online content.

Via these personal networks, built through Facebook, Twitter, and other services, we gain and contribute information and insight not simply about mundane personal topics but about our jobs, events, and other areas of expertise and interest. Within our anchor communities, we are not “paying” someone to gather or create content, but benefit from the collective information sharing.

The other broad source of content I’ll call, “anchor sources.” These are usually large creators of content we trust and value sufficiently that, whether or not we do pay money for them, we would be willing to pay for them, whether by subscription or a la carte purchase. We would pay for this “premium” content, despite the vast amount of “free” information available, because the quality, authoritativeness, and credibility are significantly better than what we can get for free.